By Paul Gable
By a 9-3 vote, Horry County Council reconsidered its decision to give $100,000 of incentive development funds to AvCraft Technical Services at its regular meeting tonight. Included in the motion was a requirement for the company and the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation (MBREDC) to come before council’s committee of the whole next week to justify why AvCraft should receive the funds.
AvCraft was specifically requested to provide a presentation to the committee of the whole that includes its new business plan as well as justification why its current promise to provide new jobs will have a different result than its three similar promises in the past which have resulted in no new jobs. Rather than just saying it will create new jobs, AvCraft will have to prove to council members it has a solid plan to justify that position.
In addition, council voted 12-0 to delay third reading on a new lease for AvCraft. That decision will also be made after next week’s committee of the whole meeting.
The vote in public went fairly smoothly. However, council members said they were subjected to heavy lobbying, in the hours preceding the meeting, by council chairman Tom Rice, council members Harold Worley and Gary Loftus and MBREDC chairman Doug Wendel to vote against the reconsideration.
The lobbying failed and when the vote came Rice voted with the majority to reconsider while Worley and Loftus, joined by council member James Frazier were the three nay votes against reconsideration.
In the two months since Rice announced his candidacy for the 7th Congressional District, he has tried to use his council chairman’s position to advance his campaign. Creating new jobs in the county was a prominent position in his run for council chairman and remains in the forefront of his Congressional campaign.
However, in his first real attempt to claim job creation with AvCraft, Rice suffered a setback. Too anxious to be able to make a claim of job creation, Rice didn’t research the company and its history and he was unable to get a majority of his council to support him when that history became public knowledge.
To make things worse, when it became obvious the lobbying attempts to stop reconsideration were doomed, Rice changed his public position and voted with the majority to reconsider. Maybe Rice will understand soon that he can either be county chairman working for what is best for the county or be a Congressional candidate. It is becoming obvious he cannot do both at the same time.
A further report on tonight’s council meeting will be featured tomorrow.